MERALCO coach Ryan Gregorio hopes to finally come up with a good blend of offense and consistent team defense when the Bolts collide with the Air21 Express in a battle of winless squads in the PLDT myDSL-Philippine Cup on Wednesday at the Smart-Araneta Coliseum.
While Gary David, the team’s biggest offseason acquisition, churned out a league-best 25.0 points in the team’s first two games, the Bolts gave up 91.5 points that led to back-to-back losses to Talk ’N Text and Rain or Shine during the first week of the PBA’s 39th season.
Gregorio’s squad tries to get out of the hole in their 5:45 p.m. match up with the Express.
“We need to close out games better,” said Gregorio.
“We need to play more aggressively on defense in order to hit the winning column. Air21 can score. They have proven it in the past two games. We must come in with a solid defensive mentality, no other way.”
Meralco will also have to work doubly hard against Air21’s bigger frontline due to the absence of injured forward Cliff Hodge.
The 6-foot-4 Hodge, who averages 8.0 points, 9.0 rebounds and 2.0 blocks, sprained his right ankle during the team’s 89-94 loss to Rain or Shine.
“The injury to Cliff Hodge is critical for us. We must find ways to gang rebound and defend as a team to off-set the loss of Cliff,” he added.
On the other hand, the Express are missing former Meralco gunner Mark Cardona due to an MCL (medial collateral ligament) sprain on his knee.
But so far, Air 21’s veteran slotman Asi Taulava has been delivering steady in the team’s 0-2 start, after averaging similar numbers of 15.5 points and 15.5 rebounds.
However, the ageless Taulava said he’s not even thinking of individual stats, concentrating instead on helping the team to get the win and hopefully, capture a spot later in the playoffs.
“Stats don’t mean anything when you lose, the most important thing is winning,” he said. “When you’re 0-2, you just move on to the next game, try to figure out a way to win. So we’re back to drawing board again, hopefully we can turn things around.”